Technology Journalist and Copywriter

Kate O'Flaherty


Welcome to my blog, featuring industry musings and opinions on the latest products

By kateoflaherty, Dec 20 2012 10:13AM

The New Year is already looking interesting in the operator space. Ofcom has today (20 December) announced the players that will bid in the 4G spectrum auction, due to kick off in January 2013.

Of course, all the major operators will bid, including Hutchison 3G (Three as its UK arm is known), alongside bigger players EE, Vodafone and Telefonica (O2).

Also unsurprising is BT's part in the auction, through its subsidiary Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited. To be able to compete in an increasingly mobile world, the telecoms group needs its own mobile side - and although the firm did run an MVNO on the Vodafone network, it had little success. A 4G offering will directly allow BT to compete in both the consumer and business space, taking on companies such as Virgin Media, which already offers superfast internet, mobile (albeit through its EE MVNO) and landline.

Virgin Media's name is absent from Ofcom's list, probably due to its MVNO on the T-Mobile network, making 4G spectrum an unnecessary expense. Sky's absence is felt however - it seems to be happy concentrating on the pay TV market rather than launching a mobile offering to compete with its fixed line rivals.

Then there are the unfamiliar names. Also competing in the auction are HKT (UK) Company Limited, a subsidiary of PCCW Limited, which is a Hong Kong based telecoms conglomerate; and Bucks based network supplier MLL Telecom Ltd.

The spectrum auction itself will boost the airwaves available to mobile phones by more than 75% and is likely to drive down prices for currently premium 4G services. It will also break EE's exclusivity in the area.

The auction will not only provide faster download speeds for many still trying to get a 3G signal; judging from the variety of players, it will also add much-needed choice to the operator market.

By kateoflaherty, Dec 3 2012 12:07PM

The text message is dead. Well, maybe not dead - it is certainly on its way out.

It comes as the text message celebrates its 20th birthday today, after the first SMS was sent in 1992 saying "Merry Christmas" (a bit early, really) to an Orbitel 901 mobile phone.

And as telecoms regulator Ofcom's press release this morning states, texting was to become a huge phenomenon. To throw some figures out there, the average UK consumer now sends around 50 text messages every week and in 2011, more than 150 billion text messages were sent in the UK.

The young have always been the most prolific texters. However, social networks and other forms of messaging such as Skype, RIM's BBM and Whatsapp are now eating into the SMS, and volumes have started to decline after reaching a peak at the end of last year.

Technology is moving on. Mobile networks don't make money from SMS - they are facing an eternal struggle to make money from voice instead. At the same time, data has earned itself a premium and pricing is often confusing, ending in hefty fines for consumers.

Many of the young generation have a data-enabled smartphone (four in 10 of all consumers, according to Ofcom's figures) and tablets are growing in popularity. Meanwhile, data hungry consumers are using 3G, or 4G if they are lucky, as messaging becomes more sophisticated and multimedia.

The smallest network Three has the right idea, offering unlimited 3G data packages, but EE last week reduced the rates on its new 4G tariffs after an outcry over prices. The other networks will certainly be busy preparing their own 4G rates for launch next year learning from the mistakes of their rival.

So as the text message celebrates its birthday, the mobile networks must be thinking they have a much bigger issue on their hands. Data is the new text message, and the next 20 years will see an entirely new revolution.

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